BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES, DAVID GRISMAN TRIO, AND JERRY DOUGLAS BAND TREAT PORTLAND TO A NIGHTOF BLUEGRASS AT THE ZOO
At last it was time for the main attraction, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, who opened with a wonderfully manic mélange of sounds that got downright funky and found Howard Levy jumping in headfirst with a wild harmonica solo. On tour celebrating their thirtieth year, the Flecktones sounded spry as ever, each at the absolute highest level of craftsmanship on his instrument. Victor Wooten would lay down thick and dirty bass grooves throughout the night, while Bela Fleck would create sounds with the banjo that are seemingly impossible. At times he would alternate from gritty blues guitar tone only to drop on a dime into a jazz solo or break off into a full on a banjo bluegrass riff.
Onstage at the zoo, the band led the audience through peaks and valleys with astounding proficiency. There was the progressive scaling of “Nemo’s Dream”, the trippy two-part jazzgrass opus “Mars Needs Women”, and the swinging yet highly technical number “Hurricane Camille” that found drum mastermind Future Man kicking off with a cymbal-heavy, almost tribal solo. The biggest moment of the night would come close to the end as the Flecktones did what many in the audience hoped for and invited first Jerry Douglas to the stage to join them on the reggae groove meets Celtic jam “Lochs of Dread” only to then invite David Grisman out for “Big Country”. Each act of the night undoubtedly delivered an impressive set, but seeing all of the masters onstage together was truly the pinnacle of an already magical night of bluegrass at the zoo.